Here's the deal the California State University and its faculty made to avoid a strike



After a yearlong battle, the California State University and its faculty union have reached a tentative agreement on a contract, avoiding a massive strike that was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White, who is based in Long Beach, and California Faculty Association President Jennifer Eagan announced the details of the agreement Friday morning in a joint phone conference. Faculty members will get 5 percent, 2 percent and 3.5 percent raises parsed out over three fiscal years.

Up until this week, a walkout looked inevitable. Neither side seemed willing to blink.

“To be honest, nobody wanted a strike,” said White, who has been enduring protests, impassioned speeches and angry comments from faculty representatives in attendance at CSU Board of Trustees meetings threatening to do just that. “The faculty did not want a strike, and I didn’t want a strike.”

On Wednesday, the two sides announced they had renewed discussions and imposed a news blackout. That was lifted with Friday morning’s announcement.

Eagan credited White — who had kept himself out of direct negotiations until meeting with union representatives in March — with making the agreement possible. “The nature of the negotiations changed when the chancellor got involved,” Eagan said. “Having the chancellor and some of the trustees in the room really helped to facilitate the process.

“This agreement will not make faculty rich,” she added, “but it will change our relationship with the chancellor.”

White said the union’s willingness to work on a multiyear agreement helped “crack the Rubik’s Cube” of the negotiations.

The agreement that was hashed out in the past few days calls for three incremental raises for faculty starting at the end of the current academic year:

• June 30: 5 percent

• July 1: 2 percent

• July 1, 2017: 3.5 percent

The faculty had wanted to implement step increases for eligible faculty — a mechanism designed to increase salary parity — for the current year. Instead, such increases will be implemented in 2017-2018 at 2.65 percent.

The other major item in the agreement was doubling, from five to 10 years, the time faculty members must work to receive medical benefits after retirement.

Eagan said the union members will vote on the agreement before the end of April. She expects it will be ratified. Once approved by the union, White will present it to the Board of Trustees at its meeting May 24-25.

The agreement is expected to cost $200 million over the three years, plus another $10 million in immediate in-kind adjustments to salaries of other workers.


White said a big part of the problem in reaching an agreement was created by forces beyond the CSU.

“It’s important to recognize that this dispute was an unfortunate symptom of a core problem in the state of California,” White said. “This took multiple years to develop, with the recession. And even before the recession, California had not been investing adequately (in the CSU).”

Both he and Eagan pointed to a fact-finding report released in March as a turning point in the negotiations. The long-awaited third-party report, originally due in January, largely supported the union’s position, recommending that the CSU meet the request for a 5 percent salary raise.

“The fact-finding report was helpful to our process,” White said. “I think what that report ended up doing was getting us back into a discussion to divert the strike.”

The report also found that the average salaries for CSU faculty — $96,000 for full professors, $73,888 for assistant professors and $58,265 for lecturers — were lower than those of their peers at other public universities.

At Cal State San Bernardino, psychology professor Janet Kottke said she was still waiting for full details on the agreement but was pleased that the strike had been avoided.

“I thought there was a pretty good chance there was going to be a strike,” Kottke said.

Faculty at Cal State Los Angeles were prepared for a walkout as well, said sociology professor Molly Talcott, who is the president of the union chapter on campus.

“We really were organizing right down to the wire with the full expectation that we would be on strike next week,” she said. “I think when we received the fact-finding report, we felt a bit more hopeful that Chancellor White would do the right thing.”

Talcott said the yearlong fight for a 5 percent raise helped galvanize union members.

“We’ve gotten to know each other,” she said. “I think that will stay with us.”

White said he hoped similar good will would close the gap between his administration and the faculty union.

“With this agreement in place, we can stand together and work together,” he said, suggesting that a combined lobbying effort might bring more money from the state. “The CSU is worthy of a robust investment from the state. We must stand together for California’s future.”


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